In support of others

This #mentalhealthmonday, lets talk about our loved ones. Supporting those we’re close to is a big topic that requires a lot of care, so I’ll likely make several posts on this topic.

We can start, though, on what to do when we notice changes in our loved ones, and asking if they’re okay.

Sometimes we may notice that a friend or family member may not be okay. This could come to our attention through a marked change in mood or behaviour, through obvious or subtle cues.

They may be withdrawing from regular activities or spending a lot of time on their own. They could be avoiding specific situations or social contact in general. They may not be keeping up with their personal hygiene or household chores. They might be spending more time in bed, or not sleeping much at all.

Our introverted, book-loving pal isn’t waving a red flag by choosing to have a quiet night at home with their favourite stack of books they haven’t gotten around to yet. But if that same friend stopped reading books altogether and took up constant cleaning or sleeping, we may have cause for concern.

The main thing to look for is changes. Sudden changes in mood or behaviour can be a sign of something larger at play. Changes in the aftermath of a recent event in their life can also be cause for concern.

So something about your friend has changed. They seem down, or worried. You’re worried. Now what?

Pick a comfortable time and place. Think about your concerns and how this could play into where and when to have this talk. If you’re concerned about your friend’s eating habits, don’t bring them to a kitchen or restaurant.

Then ask them if they’re okay. Tell them you’ve noticed some changes lately and that you’re concerned for their wellbeing. They may not choose to speak with you. That can be frustrating, but it can’t be forced. Reassure them that you’re there for them. Ask if they’d be more comfortable with a professional, such as a counsellor. When we care about how others see us, it can be challenging to open up to them.

If they do open up to you, do your best to respond thoughtfully. If they feel judged – as if opening up to you was a mistake, you’re going to get shut out in future. Listen more than talk – hold space for them. The last thing you want is to give them a reason to shut down.

Once they’ve told you what’s affecting them, ask them what they’d like you to do. Maybe they just needed to vent. Maybe they have a specific problem you can help with. As a person cengred counsellor, I’m of the belief most people know what they want to do, they just need help accepting it. Again, ask if they want to talk to a professional, whether thats a counsellor, psychologist or a relevant specialist.

You may not notice any warning signs. Not all of them are easily noticeable all of the time. When we’re hurting, sometimes we try extra hard to not let anyone see it. You’re not to blame for not noticing. You’ve done amazingly to get this far.

If you regularly find yourself in the role of managing the mental health of your friends and family, it may be worth contemplating undertaking a bystander level training course, such as Mental Health First Aid or ASIST. These provide you with amazing skills to help manage a crisis and get them to professional support.

Remember to take

If you or someone you care about is having difficulties, reach out.

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